Where did those guys with that license plate payment thing idea disappear? Is that project moving?
Short version: yes. We continued working on the project after the GEWathon victory last year. Dedicating a few hours every week aside from our regular jobs, working after work. We also got accepted into a business incubator that lasted for four months. Last week it ended with a pitching contest for all the projects. This was the next level, people here were working for months or even years on their projects. The competition was stiff. We had to work hard, both on our product and the business side of the project, but it was worth it. EazyOil took another gold medal. And that’s not the only good news.
What IS a business plan?
Or better yet: why do I need one? This was the question we all had in our minds when listening to the introduction class of our business incubator. It seemed like we were going to spend months writing a single document. How hard can that be, I spent less writing my final thesis. Well, as it turns out: pretty hard. Yup. Writing a business plan means putting all those ideas: what you’re gonna do and how you’re gonna do it, on paper. And things don’t always add up when you put them on paper. Suddenly you need to put references to all your assumption about the market (a.k.a. why anyone would buy your product/service) and write a senseful financial plan.
A couple hundred company reports later and market analysis you still don’t know much. But at least some embryo version of the business plan is starting. Along with our business side, we decided to continue developing the product as well. We decided to work out our own version of scrum to help us manage work on the project. Every day an automated message on Slack reminds team members to write down what they did yesterday and what they will do today. After you finish your regular job of course. It’s not easy forcing yourself to do more work in late afternoons and on weekends. But we kept supportive of each other and made it fun. Somewhat fun. Medium fun.
Candlelight in the dark
You can write papers and theorize all you want but there is no better test for your product than putting out there. We were eager to place a camera on a gas station and start testing license plate recognition. But the gas stations aren’t really lining up to have some random people install their cameras. We sent many e-mails and made calls when one owner of a private gas station not only said “yes” but offered help and ideas. This was our one shot. We didn’t have resources to afford a screw-up, so we tested our system thoroughly for a month. The gas station is 500km away from us, we better get this right at first.
As expected our initial idea on where to place camera was impossible to realize. Luckily, we have a guy on our team who is good with improvisation. Although not in the ideal position (the beer may have also affected this), we managed to place our camera. Now we officially have our system testing on a gas station. Yes, it only captures license plates and you can’t actually perform a payment yet, but never the less this was big.
Going in with guns blazing
It was time for a showdown at our business incubator. We were ready, business plan in one hand and pitch deck in the other. Now armed extra with our testing prototype. But our competitors weren’t coming empty handed. Others had prototypes and even buyers. This time we decided on a different opening.
Today people live fast, but they don’t wanna slow down. They want simplicity and automation. Those companies that fail to catch the rising wave of automation awaits a bad experience. Signs of automation can be seen everywhere, from self-serving cashiers to self-serving ordering kiosks in McDonalds. We are developing a system that automates payment at gas stations using license plate recognition…
Judges’ decision was unanimous, we won again!
Keep on keeping on
There are many more miles to cover on our road to becoming a successful business. Even gotten this far we are proud of what we have achieved, yet respectful of all other successful business. Thanks to the business incubator we will put our newly learned skills to use. Big shout-out to our fierce competitors in the incubator! We will continue working on our project and keep you all updated. Hopefully, soon we shall have some serious talks with serious gas stations.